This the second post in Theresa Gould’s series on her organic farming experience.
We attended our first Stateline Farm Beginnings class last Saturday. It was like a date for us since we rarely go out as a couple. Imagine driving over an hour each way and having a conversation without multiple interruptions! Heaven! The class is the largest class yet in the five years since the program began. There were exactly 30 of us, if my quick count was right. It was exciting to be with other aspiring farmers who were there to find out whether or not farming is the next step for them in their journey in life, just like us.
The Farm Beginnings program is a part of CRAFT – Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training – which creates learning opportunities for future farmers through diverse talents of our regional community of organic, biodynamic and sustainable farms. There are actually only 7 known CRAFT organizations across North America – Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Ontario, Canada.
Stateline Farm Beginnings is only 12-13 years old. We also learned that there are only 6 other Farm Beginning programs across the U.S. which doesn’t seem like a lot considering the fact that farming is where our food source begins. There are two SFB programs in Minnesota, one in North Dakota, one in New York, one in Nebraska and two here in Illinois.
The first class gave us a better idea of exactly what we would be learning through Farm Beginnings. This is the definition that our facilitator gave us: Stateline Farm Beginnings is a strategic business planning course that has four parts:
1) Your effort and willingness to do it.
2) A plan of action for you to be successful in your farm business.
3) A provision of field days to visit operating CRAFT farms as a part of the learning process.
4) Provide a mentorship with an experienced farmer to gain more production skills.
We learned that the course will not focus on production skills so much as business planning and direction. The course will offer beginning farmers support whether or not they choose to continue on with farming in their future. The facilitators desire for us to find out for sure if farming is right for us. The support doesn’t end once the course is over either, if we continue on into farming as a business. One of the class facilitators stated that it is more challenging to keep the farm going in years 2-5, so Farm Beginnings provides additional help in those crucial years. Stateline Farm Beginnings received a huge grant this year with the purpose of helping farmers in years 2-5, which is incredible when you think of it. Usually it is the start up costs and the up-keep, etc. that slow down the growth of a business.
All in all, we believe that the Farm Beginnings course will enable us to gain a clearer vision of where we are headed and how to plan our potential farm business. Not only that, we think it will encompass our other home businesses as well, which is an added benefit in our minds.